Why soju should be your new vodka
Think the best-selling liquor in the world is vodka? Bourbon? Think again. Korean soju has topped the list for years. In 2017, the HiteJinro brand sold 44 million more cases than its closest competitor (a Thai cane spirit), according to the International Wine & Spirits Research group.
Despite international popularity, soju has been little more than a blip on the local radar. But that’s beginning to change, as several brands are making inroads into the St. Louis market, like West 32, an American take on the spirit out of New York, and Jinro, which offers variations infused with subtle flavors like grapefruit and green grape.
Soju is traditionally distilled from rice, but now often incorporates other grains like wheat, buckwheat and barley. Some have a bit of added sugar and most are low ABV. Traditionally, soju is imbibed straight with food, but cocktail culture has started to embrace the spirit. Its light body and crisp, clean flavor make it an appealing substitute for vodka and some gins in classic cocktails like the Collins and the French 75.
“It has a lower ABV but more texture and mouth feel than most vodkas,” said Tai Nalewajko, beverage director at The Blue Ocean. He frequently uses the spirit in his drink recipes for this reason. Plus, the lower alcohol level makes guests amenable to ordering more than one cocktail. Nalewajko said he’s also seeing an uptick in locals who want to experience the spirit straight.
Pick up a bottle to try, or make these simple cocktails to experience soju’s versatility.
This cocktail is based on the tamagozake, a hot Japanese sake drink similar to a toddy.
1½ oz. soju
1 Tbsp. agave nectar
3 oz. coconut milk
Grated nutmeg, for garnish
• In a shaker, combine all ingredients and dry shake (without ice). Add ice and shake again. Strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg.
2 oz. soju
¾ oz. palm sugar simple syrup (recipe follows)
½ oz. Marukan ponzu citrus marinade*
Lime twist, for garnish
In an ice-filled shaker, combine the soju, simple syrup and marinade. Shake vigorously, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and top with club soda. Garnish with the lime.
Palm Sugar Simple Syrup
4 to 5 ounces
1 50-g. palm sugar disc*
3 oz. water
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the palm sugar and water. When the disc dissolves, remove the saucepan from heat and let cool. Strain the simple syrup into a bottle and refrigerate.
* Available at United Provisions in University City
Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine.
Tags : Cocktails
More stories like this
No glass required: The easiest summer cocktail recipes
You don't even need a glass to make Can Radlers and Ranch Water cocktails.
American winemakers embrace Old World grapes
American vintners are capturing the adventurous spirit of the modern wine drinker and creating off-the-beaten-path wines ...